Monday, June 30, 2008

Strawberries and chocolate

Book Passage/Life Is Meals

Life Is Meals
A Food Lover's Book Of Days
by James and Kay Salter

From a June 18 entry called Hospitality.

Places Not To Eat

Avoid, if possible, any restaurant that:

  1. Has glass atop the table
  2. Has waiters who tell you their names (nearly unavoidable in certain locales)
  3. Offers coffee when the menu is presented, except at breakfast
  4. Serves baked potatoes and/or butter wrapped in foil
  5. Allows any dishes to be cleared before everyone at the table has finished eating
  6. Makes you wait more than twenty minutes when you're on time for a reservation

While you are pondering this list, you might enjoy reading The Elementary's blog entry called Which Fish.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Stroll/June 29

It was a pleasure to join Aisling for a Sunday Stroll this last Sunday in June. It has been an unusual month, with rain and clouds and misty mornings, with the sun poking through most days but not for too long at a stretch. A single poppy came and went. Because the peonies got blowsy so quickly, I picked only one bouquet.

Last year I raved about the locust flowers, and this year we saw only a few at the top of the trees, and they were in bloom a short time.

The indigo flowers are mostly past now, except for the stalwart spiderworts which will come and go all summer.

The first orange daylily has opened. This most common of flowers is one of my very favorites. The leaves are just about the first thing to poke through the cool spring soil. They look like tall lovely grass before blooming, and then comes that cheerful color when the flowers appear.

The predominant color I saw as I walked around today was green. This catnip which Sooty and Raya will greatly enjoy.

The mint growing under the tree rose and the tree hydrangea will make the best tea.

I don't think the nasturtiums are going to flower but the leaves are good in salad.

This is the zucchini that was hit by frost, but came back beautifully!


The peas have flowered, and it won't be too long before we have fresh peas.

Lots and lots of rosa rugosas.

And last, but definitely not least, the tree mallow by the kitchen door has blossomed.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Eating and reading

I read the most delightful piece here today.

But books in any form have always been a huge part of my life. As a child, my family would sit around the dinner table, each person with their own book, calmly reading and eating at the same time...

I would love to have grown up in that household. What joy! I know that most people view meals as lovely social occasions; as opportunities for sparkling conversation and bonhomie, but it is my favorite thing to sit and read and eat all by myself.

I read the following in a Peter Mayle book once, and it greatly appealed to me.

Facing the entrance were two gentlemen sitting side-by-side, but eating alone; each at his table for one. This is a civilized arrangement I rarely see outside of France, and I wonder why. Perhaps other nationalities feel more strongly the primitive social urge to eat in small herds. Or it may be ... that a Frenchman is more interested in good cooking than in bad conversation, and takes every chance he can to enjoy a solitary meal.

I do like to sit and really appreciate my food. In A String in the Harp, I just read of a loving Welsh family having a meal together:

and for a while all conversation stopped as everyone attended to eating.

That's just about perfect for me. Sitting down with people I enjoy, reading, and eating something delicious, and then having a lovely conversation (perhaps about our books!) while sitting around the table for hours.

Friday Finds

I know it's Saturday, but I've just read about this Friday topic at Heather's blog. You may read more by clicking the above picture. I think it's a great way for people to share new ideas for books, as well as a terrific way for me to keep a to-be-read list. Please join in! The idea is to post a list of the books you've discovered this week that you really want to read.

1. Books by a children's writer, Barbara Brooks Wallace. I learned about her at Mary's Library.
2. The Film Club by David Gilmour, which I've bought and added to the Canadian Book Challenge list.
3. Ma's Cow by Patrick Flanagan - same as above.
4. Fire and Hemlock, which I read about at Geranium Cat's Bookshelf.
5. And going back a few Fridays, The Letters of Noel Coward from Elaine's blog.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Book Report/Dear Mr. Henshaw

Dear Mr. Henshaw
by Beverly Cleary
unabridged audio read by George Guidall
juvenile fiction, 1983

Fast forward 33 years from Henry Huggins, and you have Leigh Botts. His parents are divorced. His mother has an outside job working for a caterer, and goes to night classes to become a nursing assistant. His father is a trucker, rather irresponsible (hence, the divorce), and rarely around. Beverly Cleary reflects the way society and family life have changed in the years since Henry was growing up. Leigh doesn't have nearly the freedom that Henry had. Henry went all over town unsupervised, as we all did who grew up in those days. Leigh's mother doesn't like him "hanging around" various places. Henry had no tv, but was never bored. He was going off on some adventure all the time. Leigh's mom won't get the television fixed because it is "rotting his mind." Leigh has to come up with diversions to occupy his often lonely time. Henry had a neighborhood full of kids. The book begins with Leigh living in a mobile home park which he hates, and then after the divorce, he lives in a:

really little house, that used to be somebody's summer cottage a long time ago before somebody built a two-story duplex in front of it. Now it is what they call a garden cottage. It is sort of falling apart, but it is all we can afford. Mom says at least it keeps the rain off, and it can't be hauled away on a flatbed truck. I have a room of my own, but Mom sleeps on a couch in the living room. She fixed the place up real nice with things from the thrift shop down the street. Next door is a gas station that goes ping-ping, ping-ping every time a car drives in. They turn off the pinger at 10:00 P.M., but most of the time I am asleep by then. Mom doesn't want me to hang around the gas station. On our street, besides the thrift shop, there is a pet shop, a sewing machine shop, an electric shop, a couple of junk stores they call antique shops, plus a Taco King and a Softee Freeze.

Because this is a Beverly Cleary book, Leigh's life is not terribly troubled. There is no abuse or alcoholism. Yes, his folks are divorced, and yes, he doesn't see his father as much as he'd like, but both his parents love him. His mother tries to explain why his dad is as he is. Leigh's problems are still a young boy's problems; someone steals the goodies from his lunchbox, he has to make new friends when he moves. He doesn't have to go to a counselor or take medication.

The book begins with a class assignment in elementary school to write to an author. He chooses Boyd Henshaw, the man who wrote a book Leigh loves and reads many times about ways to amuse your dog. This little detail is telling. Henry's days were spent with Ribsy, and Leigh doesn't really even have a dog. Bandit rides in the truck with his dad, helping keep the man awake on long journeys. The years proceed quickly through other letters he writes to Mr. Henshaw. The author writes back with questions which Leigh answers as a way to spend his time. The author also suggests that Leigh keep a diary, which he does, still addressing the entries to Mr. Henshaw. We get to know him through his writing.

I love this book, which I have read a few times. I enjoy the epistolary style of getting to know a character. I like Leigh immensely, and feel I know him better than I do Henry. This may be because Henry's life is so carefree and secure that he doesn't have to grow up and gain an early maturity as Leigh does. This happens because of his family situation and also simply because of the societal changes in the 33 years. I know that I was much younger at certain ages than my own children were. My teacher read me Charlotte's Web in the sixth grade, and I read it to my kids before they were even in school. I didn't think I was too old for such a story. I was just younger longer. The book doesn't make the reader feel nostalgic for the past; Leigh lives his life in his own time. In 2016, it will be 33 years since this book was written, and I hope a writer of Beverly Cleary's caliber will tell another young boy's story so well, with such kindness and sensitivity and warmth.


Just before our youngest child arrived in 1985, we created a second bathroom and a bedroom upstairs from what was an attic, where one time I saw a rat. Well, all these years later, the bathroom has been repainted and wallpapered only once. That shiny new bathroom where my babies played happily in the tub has turned into an un-cleanable and tired looking space The time has come, and this summer we're (well, honestly, Tom is) doing it over. We just bought a new tub, and have decided not to get a tub-surround because it won't fit through the doors or windows, and also because I don't want those seams again. So we are going to tile the tub walls. We're going to put in a new floor, and get a pedestal sink without a cupboard underneath. We've had some trouble with mice getting in there from the back, so this will solve that problem. It isn't a big space, and we aren't making a mcmansion bathroom. No whirlpool, no walk-in shower, no separate and lovely clawfoot tub. We're going simple, but clean and new, the two most important things to me. Here are some before pictures, and I'll be posting more in-progress shots as the days go on.

The first two pictures are of a little floor closet Tom got rid of in March. It was claustrophobic to get into, and the nearby space is narrow to walk through.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Today's poem - The Tuft of Flowers by Robert Frost

The Tuft of Flowers
by Robert Frost

I went to turn the grass once after one
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.

The dew was gone that made his blade so keen
Before I came to view the leveled scene.

I looked for him behind an isle of trees;
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,
And I must be, as he had been,—alone,

'As all must be,’ I said within my heart,
‘Whether they work together or apart.'

But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a bewildered butterfly,

Seeking with memories grown dim o’er night
Some resting flower of yesterday’s delight.

And once I marked his flight go round and round,
As where some flower lay withering on the ground.

And then he flew as far as eye could see,
And then on tremulous wing came back to me.

I thought of questions that have no reply,
And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;

But he turned first, and led my eye to look
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,

A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared
Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared.

The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
By leaving them to flourish, not for us,

Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him.
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.

The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,

That made me hear the wakening birds around,
And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground,

And feel a spirit kindred to my own;
So that henceforth I worked no more alone;

But glad with him, I worked as with his aid,
And weary, sought at noon with him the shade;

And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech
With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.

‘Men work together,’ I told him from the heart,
‘Whether they work together or apart.’

The hill newly mown, a tuft of flowers, and two black dogs.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Book Report/The Prince of Frogtown

The Prince of Frogtown
by Rick Bragg
unabridged audio read by the author
biography, 2008
finished, 6/24/08

My reading journey via Maggie's Southern Reading Challenge ended just where it began, in Fairhope, Alabama. From Mary Lois' Meet Me At The Butterfly Tree, to Eudora's early life in Mississippi, to Rick Bragg riding with his son in Fairhope. I've had a wonderful trip, and hope to do it again.

I first read All Over But the Shoutin' in November 1999, and proclaimed to anyone who would listen that Rick Bragg was the best living American writer. Since then, he has written more books, married and gained a son he never, ever expected he would have. This latter event prompted him to find out more about his own father, who was nicknamed, the prince of Frogtown - the part of town where the millworkers in Jacksonville, Alabama lived.

Of the three Bragg books I've read, this was the saddest and most painful to read. For the most part, I listened to the audio, with occasional forays into the print version, and I'll tell you, there were parts I had to skip over; primary among them being a dog given to Rick's brother by his father. When the mother said, "You can't fight that dog," this reader knew that is exactly the fate which would befall the poor creature. I didn't need the details. My heart broke for Mr. Bragg when his brother told him that their dad had given Rick a tricycle, of which he had no memory. His brother Sam explains that it is because the father ran over it in the yard when he was drunk, and their mother put it away in a closet.

I think that if we look deep enough inside ourselves, we might admit that if we don't like someone, we don't want to hear anything good about them. Yet there are always people who have seen a different side; who experienced the generosity of a man his child knew only as critical; who saw the kindness in a young woman before she was hardened by life. In the other books, Charles Bragg was pretty one dimensional. Bad, period. Drunk, period. When his son, Rick becomes a new father, he simply has to come to terms once and for all with this father, and fill out his impressions. It is hard to father a child when one doesn't know one's own father. And he does hear some good things from people who knew him way back. These recollections may not overcome the horrible things but they at least round him out some. One fact in particular is striking. Charles Bragg saved his son's life once. Yet, he could have killed this child just as easily because he drove him around while he was drinking.

It was such bliss to hear Rick Bragg read his own book. I have listened to All Over But the Shoutin' and Ava's Man (twice) with two different narrators, both excellent, but not read by the man himself. So, even though I had bought the new book, when I saw it available at Recorded Books with Rick Bragg reading, I had to listen. He tells both his father's story, and his story as an evolving father. I thought this added great depth, poignancy, and warmth to the book.

I was happily reading along early in the book, when he suddenly says,

In faraway St. Johnsbury, Vermont, the eldest son of Elmore T. Ide, the handsome and charming George Peabody Ide, was expected to assume the presidency of his father's grist mill in 1887. But the dust from pulverized grain, drifting up from the grinding wheel, caused a severe allergic reaction in young Ide."

The upshot is that Ide and his uncle purchased, "the promise of unlimited natural resources to a place called Jackonville." I suppose most readers pass by the sentence with nary a notice, but I was born in St. Johnsbury, my mother went to nursing school there, my father died there. It isn't far away, and I visit often. I was stunned. And this led me to find out more about the Ides. I just knew the name as the local feedstore.

In March 2002, I wrote this in my book journal:

Ava's Man by Rick Bragg 2001 A+
I am waiting to read somewhere what I believe- that Rick Bragg is the best writer in America. His words, the way he puts the words together, those similes (!!), his subject matter. I am in awe. This book is about his grandfather, who died before he was born. What comes through is the deep love, understanding, and appreciation Rick Bragg has of this man and his times and his locale. I think it was Emerson who wrote that the sign of great writing is when it is personal to the author, but recognizable to the reader as something he has felt, and that he deeply understands. I read All Over But The Shoutin' in November 1999, and I wrote: "some of the very best writing I have ever read. Great storyteller. I had to stop listening to him at night because instead of lulling me to sleep, the book kept me awake with interest and delight. Perfect writing, riveting story. Deeply honest man, who doesn't even try to fool himself. A masterpiece of writing." Well, I could say all this about Ava's Man as well. It gives me goosebumps when I think back on Ava saying, "I had me a man". Thanks to Rick Bragg, we, too, are lucky enough to have met Charlie Bundrum. He isn't just a man of the South; he is a man of rural America, who is almost gone. My grandfather and my uncles were like him in the way he could do anything. They could build houses, and fix cars, and farm. They didn't have "hobbies". They worked every minute of their lives. I can see them in the portrait of Charlie. I see many of the men around here in him. This is a book that makes you almost ache with the love in it. In a time when people move so often, and so many places, Bragg's family mostly stays put. "This is home, and home is not something you remember. It is something you see everyday and every moment." I live where I grew up. My old neighbor lives in the house I was raised in, which is right next door to her mother. My past and present are all of a piece. Charlie had to move a lot when the kids were growing just to get work, but never farther than 100 miles. The family stayed where he is buried. "If he had died in the Arctic, I would be an Eskimo." Wonderful, excellent book.

All these years and a new book later, I feel exactly the same. He can tell a story better than anyone I know. He isn't afraid to show himself in the worst possible light. Most of us would keep the more negative aspects of our personalities hidden, but not Rick Bragg. Sometimes I winced but even then I applauded his honesty. And, as in the other books, I recognize the people. Northern poor, working class, drinking men are much the same as their Southern brothers. These tough men exist everywhere. I knew a father when my kids were little who didn't want his son watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. We all know alcoholics even if we don't live with them. A man says of Rick Bragg's father, "The thing about Charles was, he just couldn't figure out how to be a drunk and a daddy, too." And in that one sentence lies the tale, a tale told so beautifully, so magically that I'll never forget it, yet will go back and read it again and again.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Quote du jour/William Butler

Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.
William Butler

I do love raspberries, but if I had to choose my favorite, favorite berry, it would be the strawberry.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Supper/Lace-Edged Cornmeal Batter Cakes

I love this cookbook. The author illustrates many of the recipes, and includes little facts from the past. One of my favorite recipes, Philpy or rice bread, comes from here. We made these for the first time tonight, and they are delicious!

Lace-Edged Cornmeal Batter Cakes

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
Butter for frying
Maple syrup or honey

Place the cornmeal in an ovenproof bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Let it stand 10 minutes.
Combine the cornmeal with the flour, salt, baking powder, egg, and milk in the container of a food processor or blender. Process until completely smooth.
Heat just enough butter to coat the bottom of a nonstick griddle or skillet. Ladle on enough batter to form thin, 3-inch cakes. Cook until golden brown and crisp on both sides. Serve hot with maple syrup or honey.

My notes: I used the blender, and an electric frying pan sprayed with cooking spray.

You can see the lace edge here.

And these little holes will fill right up with butter and maple syrup. Yum!

June 22 at the Farmer's Market

This was my first day at the Farmer's Market. Just as in my Sunday Stroll post, most everything on sale was green: lettuce, herbs, and spinach. We are so lucky to have a Jamaican native who sells both meat and veggie patties, salsas, rubs, and marinades. I bought some veggie patties for lunches this week, salsa, a little basil, and spring garlic, which is not scapes but is just garlic picked early, sort of like scallions.

Sunday Stroll in words/June 22

From Springtime in Britain by Edwin Teale Way:

Because the wind from the west, sweeping in from the Atlantic, meets the mountains laden with moisture, the rainfall in the Lake District is the heaviest in England. ... Those who have read Dorothy Wordsworth's The Grasmere Journal will recall the frequency with which she and her brother, William, started for walks in the sunshine and returned home in the rain. But in the Lake District local showers are the rule; general rains the exception. ... The rains come and go. And the intervals between are often filled with beautiful weather, sunshine and drifting, fleecy clouds. As an old shepherd once responded when told that a fine day seemed in prospect: "Aye, it'll be fine between the showers."

Well, it appears that we are not in New Hampshire, but in the Lake District of England. Except for a few very sunny and hot days, we've had rain or showers or clouds interspersed with sunshine every day. I was going to go out strolling today, but honestly, it is pouring and the grass is soaking wet. Because of all this weather, we see green, green, green everywhere, soothing the eyes and spirit. There have been flowers, as you may have seen this week in my Indigo post. But they are the secondary rather than the primary June show. The green overpowers purple and pink and yellow. I'd expect to be a little sad about this, but honestly the green is just so great, so beautiful, so wonderful that I don't mind at all.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Book Report/Springtime in Britain

Springtime in Britain
by Edwin Way Teale
nonfiction, 1970
finished, 6/19/08

The author and his wife Nellie, after having taken many similar trips throughout the United States, decided to follow spring in Britain. They began at Land's End and worked their way to John O' Groats. In 1984, Beryl Bainbridge wrote a book called English Journey or The Road To Milton Keynes, in which she tells of going back over the route J.B. Priestly took in his book, English Journey published in 1934. I own both books, and I look forward to reading them one after the other to see the differences she found in fifty years time. As I read Springtime in Britain, I found myself thinking how much I would enjoy following the path the Teales took. I'll bet no one has done it. I keep telling Tom we should do this, and then write a book afterward!

I loved how Teale connected places or birds or flowers with some past writer or naturalist. I read many names I had never heard of, and some which I knew well. He was a truly learned man, with far ranging interests. The tale of their travels is told in a conversational manner, with moments of humor, wonder, and sadness.

Such reflections as these were interrupted by an outcry arising from one of the pasture fields of Tremedda Farm. Looking down, we saw a gander rushing, with flapping wings, toward a group of ten or a dozen cows feeding at the far side of the field. Its strident voice reached our ears more than half a mile away. As it neared the group, a small reddish cow turned tail and bolted, with the gander floundering in clamorous pursuit. For several minutes the chase and the uproar continued. Then quiet returned to the pasture. Every day, Griggs told me, this one gander seeks a time of excitement and diversion by chasing cows.

There is a wonderful, yet poignant description of his visit to a bookstore.

Late in the afternoon, on one of the side streets, I came in out of the cold, stepping down into the basement rooms of a crowded secondhand bookstore. Volumes, mainly dating from before the First World War, ranged in dusty ranks along the shelves or lay in piles on the floor. The proprietor, an elderly man, pale and drawn, huddled beside a small grate where coals were burning. He was bundled in a heavy blue coat such as seamen wear. A woolen blanket was wrapped about his legs and a large vacuum bottle of hot tea stood on a chair beside him. He spoke courteously in a weak, far-away voice, never leaving his seat by the fire. Three small boys, about eight years old, rushed about, helping with the mail and arranging the books.

I wandered down the shelves, gazing at these books of another time, now and then taking down some old, vaguely remembered volume. Here were books by Hall Caine, Marion Crawford, Gilbert Parker, Maurice Hewlett. Here were rows of volumes by H. G. Wells and Rudyard Kipling. Among the authors represented, how many of the great names of the past were almost disregarded now. From Foyle's, in London, to the smallest secondhand bookstall in a remote provincial town, of all the bookstores I encountered in Britain, this is the one that left the most enduring impression. I can see it all vividly now - the elderly man beside the tiny fire amid those thousands and thousands of books.

When he gets to Dorset, he makes a pilgrimage to Thomas Hardy's house, as Tom and I did in 1971. He expresses the awe which we readers feel when we visit the homeplace of an author.

These were the fields, these were the roads, this was the wasteland of the heath that had colored Hardy's mind and played so large a role in his Wessex novels. ... The basis of Hardy's indelible descriptions is the precision of his observant eye. When rain drips from the forest in his pages, it collects and falls according to the varied shapes of the foliage. Wherever we went in the Hardy country of Dorset, we were to observe the scene around us with the illusion of familiarity, a feeling that we had gone this way before. Our attitude was a tribute to Hardy's magic. We saw the scene as we had pictured it, or as he had pictured it for us. His descriptions are as faithful to the original as they are vivid. We see what he describes, and it is as he describes it.

He writes of hearing a cuckoo:

A new sound, a longed-for avian voice reached our ears. Mellow and repeated, it carried through the mist. In a lifetime first, we were hearing the "cooc-oo, cooc-oo, cooc-oo" of the bird so often mentioned in the prose and poetry of England. I happened to glance at my wrist watch. The hands pointed exactly to eight o'clock. For a moment I was uncertain. Were we hearing a real cuckoo or was it a cuckoo clock sounding the hour in some nearby cottage hidden in the mist? I counted the calls. They reached and passed the number eight. We were sure. The bird was real; the sound authentic. We were encountering, at last, the call that men had listened for for ages before Chaucer, the sound that each year, is looked forward to as the voice of the English spring.

Another bird he and Nellie long to hear is the nightingale. Poor Nellie is sick in bed at their inn, and he ventures out in the night rain, with a flashlight. The lengths to which he goes in his quest is amazing. I read these pages like a thriller or a mystery, eager to see if he would really hear the bird. As wonderful as his description was, Tom and I were happy to be able to go to the computer and hear what the sound is really like.

There's a delightful piece about an eighty year-old woman in a house overlooking Hickling Broad, which in past years was renowned for its annual coot shoot.

Her special pleasure was making friends with waterfowl. Each day she fed as many as 100 ducks on her lawn. A large picture window permitted her to watch their activity while lying in bed. When the time of the coot shoot arrived, each year, it was her habit to lay trails of grain leading into net-enclosed areas. There she penned up the waterfowl that visited her regularly, keeping them from harm until the "best guns" were gone and the slaughter of the day was over.

When Edwin and Nellie reach the area of Cheshire, we learn about the terrible sadness in their lives.

No longer the leisurely Cranford of Mrs. Gaskell's novel, the town of Knutsford swarmed with Saturday shoppers. All the country around, the farms, the roads, the villages held a special significance for us. For it was in this country-side, in the fall of 1944, that our son, David, had been stationed before going to the European front where, at the age of nineteen, less than two months before the end of the war, during night reconnaissance patrol ahead of the American Third Army, he was killed on the Moselle River, in Germany.

In one of the last letters written before crossing the Channel, David had mentioned some lovely English village he hoped to see again when the war was over. Military restrictions forbade mention of its name. On this day, in the sunshine of another season, we drove for a long time among the villages of the Cheshire plain in the vicinity of Knutsford. In each we gazed about us. Were these the cottages, these the lines, these the trees that, under conditions immeasurably different, had seemed so peaceful, so attractive to him?

Online I read:

In North with the Spring, Teale says that he and Nellie managed their grief during those horrible days of war and loss by keeping another dream alive. They planned a series of books based on travels following the progression of the seasons throughout America. The first of the books, North with the Spring, was published in 1951. In it he tells about leaving his home in New York on February 14 to drive their black Buick to the Everglades in Florida. There he turned around and followed the spring on a 17,000 mile journey up the eastern states. Over the next twenty years, he followed all the seasons, traveling to almost every state. He wrote books describing all the American seasons: Autumn Across America (1956), Journey Into Summer (1960), and Wandering Through Winter (1965). The books provide a fascinating chronicle of America, not just the changing natural seasons, but also a record of little known people and places during a pivotal decade and a half in a rapidly changing America. The books are full of anecdotes about other naturalists and quotations from other nature writers. All four books are dedicated to the Teales' son, David, who died in the war. The inscription reads, "Dedicated to David Who Traveled with Us in Our Hearts."

I can tell from reading Springtime in Britain that these were wonderful people. They were a devoted couple sharing each delight of their trip. I want to get all the American books, and read each in its appropriate season. I finished this on the last evening of spring and I had a glorious trip through Britain while simultaneously experiencing a sometimes similar, sometimes very different springtime at home.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Today's picture/footbridge

This is the footbridge of my childhood. I crossed it to head downtown or overstreet. When I had a companion who hadn't been on it before, I'd stand in the middle and shake it back and forth. Those mesh sides weren't there when I was a kid, but no one ever jumped or fell off, to my knowledge.

Sense of place contest

For Maggie's Sense of Place Contest, I'm offering a passage from Rick Bragg's The Prince of Frogtown, which you may see on the sidebar that I am reading with both eyes and ears. Her rules are thus:

Pick out a passage from your southern reading which depicts sense of place.
Either take a picture to match the passage or find one on the internet.
Paintings are also eligible.
Post quote and picture and Link it to Mister Linky by June 21 to qualify.
You don't have to be a participant in the Southern Reading Challenge to play.

From The Prince of Frogtown:

Beside the mill, a village took shape, a community of small, solid, decent houses, every one exactly the same. The streets were named just A Street, B Street, and so on, as if these plain people did not require anything else. There would be 136 houses in all, a town within the town. Made of cheap but sturdy weatherboard and roofed with wooden shingles... .

I took the photos locally. The first one is an upper view of the original factory. The second, another building nearby that was part of the operation. There were not 136 houses, but just a few along the street, across from the factory itself, and quite similar. They housed the workers, and were indeed, "small, solid, decent houses." The street was named after the factory.

As I may talk about when I review the book, I am always struck by similarities rather than differences between South and North (and probably East and West, as well) in Rick Bragg's stories.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

An Irish supper

Tom is out tonight at a retirement party for fellow teachers, and this is what I made for supper. Both are new (to me) recipes. The bread comes from Les' cooking blog, and the soup from an old Saveur magazine article on Irish foods. The soup is quite like Gladys Taber's Leek and Potato Soup (scroll down on the page), just using scallions rather than leeks. Being Irish myself, I could just about live on bread and potatoes! You might think it strange to have soup and warm bread for supper on the last night of spring, but it is cloudy and cool, and I have a little fire going in the woodstove. It is really much like an Irish evening.

Irish Soda Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and baking soda.
Blend egg and buttermilk together, and add all at once to the flour mixture.
Mix until just moistened.
Stir in melted butter.
Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 65-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the bread comes outs clean. Cool on a wire rack. Wrap in foil for several hours, or overnight, for best flavor.

My notes: I used 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 white.
I put a little lemon juice in a 2-cup measure, and added milk.
I baked it in an 8 x 8 pan.
Part way through I turned the heat up to 350º.

Irish Potato and Spring Onion Soup

Chop an onion and scallions.
I picked 7 scallions, and used both the white and green parts.
Saute in 2 T. olive oil.
Chop four cups potatoes and cook in four cups water.
Add onion/scallion mix, and then put the whole thing through a food mill (or blender or food processor).

I couldn't have been more pleased with this meal. Both soup and bread were perfectly delicious.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Scallions, scapes, spinach

This is one of the things I love about keeping an online journal: I just sat down to do a Fresh From My Garden post about the first garlic scapes, and lo, and behold, it was exactly a year ago today I wrote about them. Along with the scapes, I picked some scallions and more spinach. You may recall that eight days ago, I picked spinach and rhubarb. I was so pleased, and satisfied to have all that food in the freezer. And what happened? We had a brief thunderstorm with high winds, and sure enough a line came down and we lost power for 23 hours. I threw it all out. The spinach hadn't even frozen yet, and was in a pool inside the freezer bags. But, there is a happy ending. The weather has been cool, cloudy, and rainy and hence, the spinach came right back, and I think I picked as much today as I did before. Tomorrow, I'll head out to the rhubarb patches and see if there is still some to pick that isn't too tough.

Garlic scapes
Scallions, spinach, scapes (hidden)

Today's poem - Goats in Pasture by James Hayford

Goats in Pasture
by James Hayford

Their bony heads untaxed by need of moving,
Changing, repairing, laying by,
Goats keep a comprehensive eye
On the condition of the sky -
Such store they set on keeping dry -
And live attentively, without improving.

If you have goats, you know the truth of these words. We have two pastures: the 'home' pasture, where the barn is, and the north pasture. If those goats, Esther and Bracelet are in the north pasture, and there is the littlest sprinkle of rain, they begin to bleat. On a day when there 'might' be rain, Tom doesn't even bother moving them across the road because the goats will be so miserable, they'll go through the fence to get back to the barn. There is truly no other animal we've ever had with the personality of goats. Whatever they want to do, they will do. There is no stopping them. Last year I posted about how they got out of the pasture and ate down a brand new crab apple tree, two new Duchess apple trees, and did a lot of damage to a new sugar maple. I've also mentioned the fencing around the pasture lilacs - one of their many favorite foods. I keep threatening to put a note up in the vet's office, saying free goats, but we labor on - searching for ways to keep them in. Tom is always coming up with new schemes like mesh fencing, improving the charge on the fence (which they apparently don't even feel), and trying to foretell where they want to be on a particular day. We'll see. "Without improving" indeed. They know they are perfect as they are. It is the humans who need to change. We are on the earth for their benefit, period.


Indigo: a color between blue and violet in the spectrum.

Chive flower
Mountain bluet, Siberian iris, lupin(e)
Korean lilac
Though faded, the Korean lilac is still a huge hit with the butterflies
Spiderwort (Henry Mitchell says, wirt not wort!)
Bearded iris
Siberian iris
Aster and clover
Baptisia australis, false indigo, and my favorite name - blue wild indigo